Krishna Sankar Kusuma, a media research professor at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University, was shocked when a student offered him money to write his PhD thesis last year.
He realised that compiling thesis is a lucrative business and south Delhi is fast turning into a hub of ghost writers for research papers.
Students from reputed educational institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT-D), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and JMI are now turning to shops where thesis are sold for Rs 30,000 and upwards.
“What good is a PhD thesis if it’s not researched and written by the student himself? This practice is not only illegal but immoral,” said Kusuma.
Situated opposite the old JNU campus in Ber Sarai market are rows of shops that look like ordinary bookshops offering new and second-hand course material. However, it is a flea market of sorts for students looking to trade thesis projects. Inside shops that tout “Projects and Assignments” are agents who get these projects prepared when students are gearing up for their final submissions.
“Research students from JNU and IIT come to us and we have a register of courses and topics to choose from. Many pick recycled material but the rates are higher for original content,” said a worker at Bharat Books and Projects in Ber Sarai.
Shopkeepers sell projects that belong to former students for as low as Rs 300 but these can easily be caught on plagiarism-tracking software like TurnitIn or Blackboard which all major universities subscribe to. “Most students choose to get original content written so that their thesis escapes the plagiarism checks. It costs them Rs 2 per word and we charge a minimum of Rs 30,000 for a PhD project. We have faculty dedicated to write the original content and there is no chance of it being caught in the software,” said a worker at another book centre in Ber Sarai.
There are dedicated shops in Ber Sarai and other parts of south Delhi that procure these thesis projects from scrap dealers and university store rooms. While Nehru Place market caters to Delhi University’s South Campus colleges such as Acharya Narendra Dev, Deshbandhu, Dyal Singh and PGDAV, some students of JMI University turn to Gafoor Nagar in Okhla for the same purpose. At first, these seem like regular shops for photostat and printing services. Inside, there are neat stacks of folders named stream-wise and categorised alphabetically.
“I had gone to Gafoor Nagar market to get some notes photocopied when the owner offered to get my PhD thesis written. I am not sure exactly how many shops offer this near Jamia but it means people do go to them and they are making profit out of this business,” said Mohammad Shadab Rahman, a Jamia student.
Research scholars feel that this is not only a violation of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, but also a big loophole in the education system. With students turning up for fake thesis and professors offering to be ghost writers, big questions are raised at the existing practices.
“I am shocked but this is actually unlikely for subjects based on science and technology. There are layers of systems through which a PhD thesis passes. It is a fairly long procedure which also goes through international reviews. Disciplinary action will be taken if anybody is found violating the rules,” said Anurag Sharma, dean of academics, IIT-Delhi.
Researchers at JMI feel that implications of violations, forms of plagiarism and infringement of laws related to intellectual property are not taught to the students properly so that this kind of academic dishonesty can be done away with. “It is not just a criminal offence but also unlawful as per the IPC. Even after knowingly writing it for someone else, the ghost writers have the moral rights to their work. They can claim it anytime they want, so the students are taking a huge risk,” said Pratibha Singh, senior advocate.